There was a lot at stake for the Colorado Avalanche heading into this game. With a victory, the Avalanche could leapfrog the Kings and Coyotes in the Western Conference standings to move into playoff position. Colorado is in a tough 4-team battle for the final two playoff spots and have fewer games remaining. They desperately need wins.
As for the Canucks, they clinched the Northwest Division when the Calgary Flames lost to the Dallas Stars earlier in the day, so they had slightly less at stake. Despite the complete lack of urgency, the Canucks showed resilience, heart, character, gumption, and chutzpah in a tough and chippy game that I closely observed when I watched this game.
Canucks 3 – 2 Avalanche (OT)
Daryl Reaugh was a delight as the colour analyst, in stark contrast to Mark Lee’s play-by-play. Not only was his analysis on the mark, his language was actually colourful. A misplay by Burrows in front of Luongo was called a “fumble bumble.” Luongo’s play was described as “radiant” but he later gave up a “buxom rebound” that clearly distracted Matt Duchene with its cleavage so that he fanned on the shot. Hopefully we get to hear a lot more from Razor on Canucks broadcasts in the future.
The Avalanche opened the scoring on the powerplay just over a minute into the game after a bad pass by Dan Hamhuis in the neutral zone led to a Too Many Men penalty on the Canucks. Everything seemed to go wrong at once: Manny Malhotra lost the faceoff, Sami Salo lost track of the puck, Roberto Luongo lost the post, Tootles lost his marbles and Jannik Hansen lost Gabriel Landeskog.
Lack of possession in the defensive zone hurt the Canucks in this game: Malhotra was 3-for-8 on defensive zone faceoffs, while Kesler was 3-for-7 and Henrik 0-for-2. The only centre above 50% in the defensive zone was Samme Pahlsson, who was 3-for-5. Given that defensive zone faceoffs are meant to be a Canucks specialty, it’s officially time to freak out. I suggest deploying your ink defense and fleeing.
Despite giving up a bad rebound and losing track of the puck on the first goal, Luongo was superb throughout the game. The shots were 14-3 for the Avalanche just halfway through the first period, but Luongo kept things close and finished with 38 saves. You could tell he was in a groove: after a third period save on Matt Duchene, he started breakdancing in his crease.
Aaron Rome had an interesting first period, starting with what looked like a dirty blindside hit on Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie, but proved to be a lot cleaner on the replay. Rome actually skated past Barrie in order to make contact with his chest instead of hitting him from the blindside. That didn’t stop Chuck Kobasew from going after Rome a couple minutes later, delivering a late, high hit to Rome’s head. Here’s a question: what happened to fighting? Why are guys headhunting as payback instead of dropping the gloves?
Rome was actually dominant physically early in the game, as several Avalanche players just bounced off of him when they tried to throw a body check. The only player that was able to get the best of Rome was Matt Hunwick, who knocked him down awkwardly, causing Rome to leave the game with a knee injury. I would say that he took an arrow in the knee, but that meme is dreadfully overused.
Kobasew’s hit on Rome wasn’t the only high hit in the game, as Mark Olver took a flying leap into Chris Tanev in the second period, leading to David Booth and Alex Burrows introducing themselves to Olver, then introducing Olver to the Canucks bench. Face first.
It appears that Ryan Kesler is testing out his BeastMode™ switch prior to the playoffs, as he was dominant in this game. He finished with 5 shots on net, with his best scoring chance coming after making a gorgeous outside-inside move to undress Ryan Wilson and force a nice shoulder save from Semyon Varlamov. When Kesler stops undressing himself and starts undressing his opponents, that’s a good sign.
The long change in the second period cost the Canucks a goal, as Varlamov sent a gorgeous outlet pass up to Paul Stastny, who set up Jamie McGinn for a breakaway. He made no mistake, snapping the puck past Luongo’s blocker. Cory Schneider could be seen on the Canucks’ bench frantically taking notes: Pass the puck to teammate rather than opponent. Genius!
Evil Mason Raymond has taken advantage of Daniel Sedin’s absence, skating a regular shift alongside Henrik Sedin on the top line and making it look like he belongs there. He finished with a team-high 6 shots and 9 shot attempts, and also added 2 takeaways. When the powerplay failed to convert in the first period, he found himself promoted to the first powerplay unit and the move paid off immediately when he pick up a deflected Sami Salo wristshot and put the puck, like a bartender’s baseball bat, right under the bar.
With Daniel out indefinitely, it seemed unlikely that we would see any Sedin-esque wizardry from the Canucks, but Samme Pahlsson had a trick up his sleeve. Kevin Bieksa found him with a slick pass in the slot and he immediately spun a blind backhand pass to (figuratively) streaking Chris Higgins, who fired the puck top corner, where circle takes the square.
My original notes for Higgins’ goal were “Wow wow wow.” Somehow that strikes me as a more accurate description than what I just wrote.
During Mason Raymond’s second intermission interview with Scott Oake, HNIC listed @21masonraymond as Raymond’s twitter handle on screen below his name. One problem: it’s clearly a fake account. Red flags include nonsensical tweets, only a couple thousand followers, and no confirmed Canucks twitter accounts among his followers. Pro tip: try asking the player what his Twitter handle is before putting it on a national broadcast.
The chippy play continued in the third period, as Steve Downie came flying in on the forecheck for a big hit on Hamhuis. After the puck cleared the zone, he re-engaged with Hamhuis and Maxim Lapierre stepped in. A scrum ensued in front of the Canucks’ bench, with the highlight being the calming hand of Alain Vigneault on Zack “Snack Pack” Kassian’s shoulder, making sure he didn’t jump on top of the boards to deliver a Ram Jam to Downie.
After the scrum, one of Landeskog’s “TaylorMade” sticks ended up in the Canucks bench, where one of the arena staff snagged it and passed it into the stands to a fan in a Canucks jersey in the crowd for a souvenir. The referee wasn’t having any of that, forcing the fan to return it. Spoilsport.
Jannik Hansen made an absolutely incredible play on the overtime gamewinner. On the forecheck, he shoved Tyson Barrie off the puck like an angry nerd flipping a table, then found Chris Higgins with an absolutely sick pass through the legs of David Jones. That pass was so sick that even Dr. House didn’t know what to make of it, except that it definitely didn’t have Lupus. Chris “Kiss Huggins” Higgins had no choice but to finish it off with a one-timer between Varlamov’s legs and accept the longest hug of his life.
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